US to import baby formula from Mexico, but parents must wait until July to buy it

In a Friday update, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that about 1.3 million cans of Gerber Good Start Gentle infant formula would be imported from Mexico to the U.S. 

The shipment of nearly 33 million full-size, 8-ounce bottles – or 2.2 million pounds – is expected to be available from Nestlé on Gerber’s website and at key retailers starting in July and extending through October. 

“The FDA is exercising enforcement discretion for the importation of Gerber Good Start Gentle from Nestlé (Mexico) following the review of info provided pertaining to nutritional adequacy and safety including testing, labeling and facility production [and] inspection history,” the agency tweeted

The FDA said the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is evaluating options for getting the products to the U.S. as quickly as possible amid the nationwide baby formula shortage. 

“The FDA will continue to dedicate all available resources to help ensure that safe and nutritious infant formula products remain available for use in the U.S. and will keep the public informed of progress updates,” it pledged. 

It said it remains in further discussions with manufacturers and suppliers regarding additional supply and that its work to combat the shortage has “already begun to improve supply and availability.” 

“The agency expects that the measures and steps it is taking, and the potential for Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis, Michigan, facility to safely resume production in the near-term, will mean more and more supply is on the way or on store shelves moving forward,” it wrote in a Friday news release. 

Global companies that make baby formula are bringing products into the U.S. after the FDA relaxed its import policy to address the issue. 

The imports announcement came after regulators said they’d reached a deal to allow Abbott Nutrition to restart its Michigan plant. 

The plant has been closed since February due to contamination issues. 

Since then, under the Biden administration’s “Operation Fly Formula,” additional shipments have come from overseas, with more ordered earlier this week. 

President Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he was not aware of the severity of then-prospective nationwide baby formula shortages until April. 

The HHS Inspector General said Thursday that it would audit the FDA’s decision to close the Abbott plant.  

Melanoma can be prevented with regular skin checks and the ‘ABCDE’ rule: American Academy of Dermatology

Knowing your “ABCs” may save your life.

“The Real Housewives of Orange County” star Tamra Judge recently took to Instagram to remind her followers about the dangers of melanoma.

“May is melanoma awareness month. Please Go get a full body skin check, it could save your life.

The 54-year-old was diagnosed with the skin cancer in 2017 after first noticing a mole that summer on a very sensitive area — the buttock, but it was later diagnosed as melanoma after a massage therapist encouraged her to make sure it was not serious, according to Self, a wellness and health content platform.

“I probably would have never, ever even knew it was there because I am not turning around and looking back there,” the California native said. “It didn’t hurt. There was nothing, it wasn’t raised. There was no reason for me to think there was something wrong.”

A few months later a dermatologist biopsied the lesion and it came back melanoma. She subsequently had surgery and now is skin-cancer free.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, but melanoma accounts for approximately only 1% of all skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. 

“Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, is characterized by the uncontrolled growth of pigment-producing cells. Melanoma may appear on the skin suddenly without warning but also can develop within an existing mole,” according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD).

“The overall incidence of melanoma continues to rise. In fact, melanoma rates in the United States doubled from 1988 to 2019, and worldwide, the number of melanoma diagnoses are expected to increase by more than 50% by 2040.”

It’s thought that excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation either from the sun or from indoor tanning increases the risk for all skin cancer types, including melanoma, per the dermatology association. 

And more than 90% of melanoma cases are from skin damage from ultraviolent radiation, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Using tanning beds before age 20 can increase your chances of developing melanoma by 47%, and the risk increases with each use,” AAD warns.

“The American Academy of Dermatology urges everyone to examine their skin regularly. This means looking over your entire body, including your back, your scalp, your palms, your soles, and between your toes.”

And if you notice a mole on your skin, follow the “ABCDE rule” to know when to seek medical attention.

The “A” stands for asymmetry where half of the spot is different from the other, “B” stands for an irregular border, the “C” stands for color, where the mole changes colors from one area to the next, the “D” stands for diameter, where the mole is bigger than the size of a pencil eraser and “E” stands for evolving, where the spot looks different from the rest.

“If you notice a new mole, a mole different from others on your skin, or one that changes, itches or bleeds, even if it is smaller than 6mm, you should make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible,” AAD advised.

Melanomas are highly treatable if caught early, with a 99% average five-year survival rate for those who were diagnosed before it spread to lymph nodes.

Prevention against harmful UV rays is essential, so the dermatology association advises: “The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow appears to be shorter than you are, seek shade.”

Also wear clothing that protects against the sun, like long sleeved shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with UV protection, according to AAD.

But for more effective sun protection, look for special clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.

And apply broad-spectrum sunscreen that is also water resistant with SFP of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing, remembering to take extra precautions near water, snow and sand because their reflective properties can ” … intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.”

“Avoid tanning beds. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.”

US birth rates rise for the first time in seven years

The United States’ birth rate in 2021 rose for the first time in seven years, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. 

“We’re still not returning to pre-pandemic levels,” Dr. Denise Jamieson, chair of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, said.

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics reviewed 99.94% of registered birth records in 2021 and found a 1% birth rate increase that year compared to 2020. 

It is the first birth rate increase since 2014. Prior to the 2021 data, birth rates had fallen by an average of 2% each year. 

The data found there were 3.7 million births reported last year, compared to about 3.6 million recorded in 2020. Though the birth rate ticked up last year, there were still about 86,000 fewer births in 2021 compared to 2019. 

Officials think last year’s uptick reflects births from pregnancies that had been put off during the uncertain early days of the pandemic. Data show births were down in January of 2021, but ticked up as the year continued, Brady Hamilton, lead author of the new report, said. 

Birth rates rose for both Hispanic and White women, by 1% and 3% respectively. While birth rates among Asian women, Black women, and Native American and Alaska Native women all fell anywhere from 1% to 4% in 2021. 

Teen birth rates notably fell by 6%, while pregnancies among older women increased. The data show births among women in their early 30s increased by ​​3%, 5% for women in their late 30s, and 3% for women in their early 40s.

“That sort of suggests [that] when we saw the decline in births from 2019 to 2020, probably a lot of births were postponed,” Hamilton said. “People were waiting to see what happened [with the pandemic] and rates rose in older women as they may have proceeded to have that child.”

UK confirms more cases of monkeypox

Four additional cases of monkeypox have been confirmed according to a news release from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), increasing the number of diagnosed cases to seven since May 6th. 

The three cases reported in London and one linked case in England were not connected with the three previously confirmed cases between May 6th and May 15th, the UKHSA officials said in the report. The individuals have the mild West African clade of the virus compared to the Central African clade, the report said. Those in need of medical attention were being treated in infectious disease units of hospitals in the UK.

UKHSA officials said monkeypox is a viral infection spread by very close contact with someone with the virus. The virus is commonly associated with travel to West Africa, the report stated. 

The officials wrote in the statement, “There is no link to travel to a country where monkeypox is endemic, and exactly where and how they acquired their infections remains under urgent investigation, including whether they have further links to each other.”

The release said that common contacts have been identified in two of the latest four cases. Health officials said the most recent cases were infected in London and all four self-identified as gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men, the report stated. 

Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser, UKHSA, said in the release, “This is rare and unusual. UKHSA is rapidly investigating the source of these infections because the evidence suggests that there may be transmission of the monkeypox virus in the community, spread by close contact.” 

Hopkins also wrote in the report, “We are particularly urging men who are gay and bisexual to be aware of any unusual rashes or lesions and to contact a sexual health service without delay.” Hopkins said close contacts of the cases are being contacted to provide health information and cautioned clinicians to be alert to individuals who present with rashes without a clear alternative diagnosis. 

UKHS officials said the risk to the UK population is low and they are working closely with their health partners and international partners to investigate if similar increased cases have been reported in other countries. 

According to UK Health officials, symptoms of Monkey pox include the following: 

  • Fever, chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches, backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Exhaustion
  • A rash can develop on the face, then spread to other areas including the genitals

UK Health officials said the rash goes through different stages, and can look like chickenpox or syphilis, before becoming a scab that later falls off.

The UKHSA officials said in the release that most people recover within a few weeks, although in some cases severe illness can occur.

The last case in the United States was almost one year ago, according to Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, MD, MACP, FIDSA, FSHEA, who is the Chief, Infectious Diseases & Hospital Epidemiologist at Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in New York and spoke to Fox News about this outbreak in the UK. 

Glatt, who is also a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, also explained to Fox News that “monkeypox is related to smallpox, but is much less virulent and much less contagious. The virus is typically transmitted from contact with an infected animal’s bodily fluids or from a bite. Person-to-person transmission is unlikely but can occur via large respiratory droplets along with prolonged close exposure.”

Glatt told Fox News that the incubation period is usually 1-2 weeks, with fever, rash and chills being the most common symptoms.

Glatt added, “At this time, there is no concern unless you have been in close contact with a person with monkeypox or have been in an area where monkeypox has been reported.”

Baby formula shortage: why many mothers can’t breastfeed

With the recent nationwide baby formula shortage, breastfeeding is often suggested for mothers as a natural alternative, but it’s not so simple, according to a recent the New York Times report. 

“TRY BREASTFEEDING. It’s free and available on demand,” singer and actress Bette Midler, 76, tweeted on Thursday, May 12 in response to the national formula shortage.

“Most mothers have the ability to breastfeed, so I feel it’s hard for them to understand what it’s like for a mother who cannot. As a new mom, we’re told it’s so important to breastfeed, even before the baby is born, they drill it into you. After working with five lactation consultants, I wasn’t built for it,” first-time mother Misty Mortezaie, 40, told Fox News.

The New York native, who now has started a family in California, didn’t have a choice – she could only use baby formula to feed her daughter, now a little older than 1.

Midler later qualified her comments on Twitter: “No shame if you can’t breastfeed, but if you can & are somehow convinced that your own milk isn’t as good as a ‘scientifically researched product,’ that’s something else again.”

But approximately two out of three infants are not exclusively breastfed for 6 months – and the rate has not improved in over two decades, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with the goal of breastfeeding for at least one year, per a release.  

“Although most infants receive some breast milk, most are not exclusively breastfeeding or continuing to breastfeed as long as recommended,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In the 2019-20 CDC National Immunization Survey, 56.7% of infants surveyed were breastfed at 6 months with the number dropping to 35% at one year, but only 25.8% infants were exclusively breastfed through 6 months. 

The agency noted many factors influence how long a nursing mother will breastfeed, including problems with lactation and latching, worries about infant nutrition and weight, medication interactions, unfriendly work policies or parental leave, lack of family support as well as cultural norms.

But the nationwide formula shortage is pushing more mothers to breastfeed, with some trying to find ways to start after they already stopped, but the breasts need constant feedback from the baby to produce milk, per the Times.

After a baby latches on to drink milk, this initiates the “let-down” reflex where the breast nerves are stimulated, triggering the hormone prolactin to stimulate milk production and another hormone known as oxytocin to release, or “let down,” the milk, according to Healthline.

But the body’s feedback loops for breastfeeding “is not especially resilient, in that once it’s over it’s very hard to build it back,” said Dr. Casey Rosen-Carole, director of the breastfeeding and lactation medicine program at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

This can increase stress for mothers who are trying to breastfeed after stopping by pushing their bodies to almost defy physiology, Rosen-Carole added.

Even though breastfeeding is recommended as the healthiest option for babies, mothers are often ridiculed for the practice in public, while other mothers fear being judged for not following what is often considered the maternal ideal, according to the Times.

“I felt incredibly guilty and tried to hide it. You’re already so emotional due to the change in hormones, then add on not being able to provide something that’s supposed to be so natural and happen automatically, you feel like you’ve already failed as a mom,” Mortezaie added.

But in spite of more lactation rooms in some offices, airports and now hundreds of “baby-friendly” hospitals to promote breastfeeding, many mothers do not breastfeed or simply can’t, according to the Times.

Breastfeeding can also cause medical complications, including cracked and bleeding nipples, blocked ducts and mastitis, where the breast tissue gets infected.

Expecting every woman to breastfeed “is not predicated on reality. Every person can’t make all the insulin they need. That’s why there’s a disease called type 1 diabetes –  and we don’t say, ‘Well, if you just tried harder, you wouldn’t need that medicine,’” said Dr. Alison Stuebe, an OB-GYN and distinguished scholar in infant feeding with the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Massachusetts confirms first case of monkeypox in the United States this year

Massachusetts health officials confirmed on Wednesday the first case of monkeypox, a rare but potentially serious virus, in the United States so far this year. 

Monkeypox causes similar symptoms to smallpox, including fever, headache, muscle aches, exhaustion, chills, and skins lesions. 

At least seven cases of the virus have been reported this month in the United Kingdom, health authorities there said. 

The individual who contracted monkeypox in Massachusetts had recently traveled to Canada and officials said they are conducting contact tracing. 

“This contact tracing approach is the most appropriate given the nature and transmission of the virus,” Massachusetts health officials said. “The case poses no risk to the public, and the individual is hospitalized and in good condition.

Monkeypox is most common in central and western African countries, but cases have occurred outside of Africa linked to international travel. 

The last American to have monkeypox was a Maryland resident who contracted the virus shortly after returning from Nigeria last November. 

Health officials in Texas also confirmed a case last July in a man who had recently traveled from Nigeria. 

Monkeypox is most easily spread through bites and scratches by African rodents and monkeys that harbor the virus, but it can also spread between people through contact with contaminated sores and other bodily fluids.

WHO reports COVID cases down everywhere but Africa, Americas

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the number of new global COVID-19 cases has continued to decline across the world except for the Americas and Africa.

The WHO’s pandemic dashboard reports 675,952 new cases worldwide over the last 24 hours.

In the U.S., the WHO said there have been more than 156,200 new daily cases. 

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports 163,335 new cases and 949 new deaths, as omicron sub-variants continue to spread across the nation. 

In its weekly report, the United Nations (U.N.) health agency said about 3.5 million new cases and more than 25,000 deaths were reported globally, which respectively represent decreases of 12% and 25%.

Comparatively, infections rose in the Americas by 14% and Africa by 12%. 

Also, some of the biggest increases in cases were seen in China, with a 145% spike in the last week. 

On Thursday, President Biden called for a renewed international commitment to attacking COVID-19. 

He pointed out that America is approaching the “tragic milestone” of 1 million coronavirus-related deaths and ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff through Monday.

“This pandemic isn’t over,” the president told the second global pandemic summit. “Today, we mark a tragic milestone here in the United States, 1 million COVID deaths – 1 million empty chairs around the family dinner table.”

Europe marked 2 million deaths on the continent and the coronavirus has killed at least 6.2 million people globally since 2019.

The WHO said 14.9 million excess deaths were associated with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.

“We’re going to continue to fight for more funding here,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “But, we will continue to press other countries to do more to help the world make progress as well.”

With no money left for vaccinations, experts are predicting that a fall surge could reverse progress made in the U.S.

COVID-19 counterfeit diagnostic at-home tests threaten public health: FDA 

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants the public to be aware of counterfeit at-home over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 diagnostic tests circulating in the United States, according to a recent press release.  

“Counterfeit COVID-19 tests are tests that are not authorized, cleared, or approved by the FDA for distribution or use in the United States, but are made to look like authorized tests so the users will think they are the real, FDA-authorized test,” the administration said. 

“The performance of these counterfeit tests has not been adequately established and the FDA is concerned about the risk of false results when people use these unauthorized tests.” 

The at home diagnostic kits are primarily antigen tests. 

“First, antigen is something (virus, bacteria, pollen, etc.) which causes the human body to produce an immune response to that substance. In the case of a virus, the body can respond by producing antibodies to the virus,” Dr. Michael Blaivas told Fox News. 

He’s the chief medical officer at Anavasi Diagnostics, a National Institutes of Health-backed Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics company and molecular diagnostic platform designed for the future of at-home testing. 

“An antigen test looks for the same antigen the human immune system looks for with antibodies, but it uses antibodies made in a laboratory instead. When those antibodies (in the antigen test) bind to the target (virus) they can be made to give off a signal, which the test will recognize and know that it was positive for the virus.” 

But the at home antigen tests are not always correct, sometimes causing a “false-negative” or a “false-positive” result. 

A false-negative antigen test result is when a test comes back as negative even though the person has COVID-19, which can lead to a delayed diagnosis and treatment. This not only may cause serious harm to the patients, including severe illness and death, but also lead to spreading SARS-CoV-2 virus without realizing it, per the FDA. 

In contrast, a false-positive antigen test result is when the test says someone has COVID-19 even though they don’t. This also can result in adverse consequences as well because the patient may have a delay of both diagnosis and treatment of an alternative life-threatening illness that needs to be treated. 

The FDA recommends to check their list of authorized diagnostic tests on their website listed here to make sure the test kit purchased is not counterfeit, but patients can also contact the manufacturer of the test directly to confirm the test is FDA-authorized. 

Some signs that at at-home OTC COVID-19 diagnostic test may be counterfeit include poor print quality on the outside labels and grammatical and spelling errors on product labels. The FDA recommends to always look for the outside labels to include the lot number, expiration date, barcode or QR codes. 

“When you open the text kit package, look at the components inside and make sure they match the contents described. If there are missing instructions on how to use the kit, unfilled components or missing ones or the number of components is different than what is listed on the box, you may be dealing with a counterfeit product,” Blaivas added. 

The FDA is currently aware of two counterfeit at-home diagnostic tests: counterfeit Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Tests and iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test Kits. 

“The best place to purchase home kits is going to be from your local pharmacy. Since pharmacies and other brick and mortar stores are more likely to have established sources for purchasing the products they sell to you, introduction of counterfeit products will be harder for criminals to achieve, but not impossible,” Blaivas told Fox News.  

If buying online, look for the negative reviews regarding if the tests have false negative and positive test results, rather than the positive reviews, because it’s easy for scammers to buy positive reviews, he added. 

Antigen tests are usually faster, but ” … are going to be much less sensitive (not able to detect viral infection as well) in most cases” compared to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that look ” … for evidence of actual viral genetic code, rather than relying on something that might or might not bind to some virus in the sample,” Blaivas noted. 

PCR tests remain the gold standard for diagnosing a patient with COVID-19, according to the Cleveland Clinic.  

 “The test involves several chemical reactions which basically focus in on key genetic code portions from the virus. The chemical processes chop up the viral genetic code (mRNA) strands and then make lots of copies of those snippets of genetic code,” Blaivas explained. 

But these tests are traditionally only done in hospital labs and can take longer to result than antigen tests, but ” … by streamlining some of the processes, as we have done for the Anavasi Diagnostics test, you can actually get a result in less than 30 minutes.”  

Blaivas noted his company’s diagnostic test is currently under review by the FDA for emergency use authorization (EUA), but he is hopeful it will get approved for EUA within the next several months for patients to use in their homes. 

“The distribution of counterfeit COVID-19 products is a threat to the public health. The FDA regularly monitors the marketing of unauthorized, unapproved, or uncleared tests, including reports of problems with test performance or results. The FDA is working with manufacturers to address this safety issue.” 

Taking ibuprofen with certain high blood pressure medications may damage kidneys, study says

Patients who are prescribed a diuretic and a renin-angiotensin system (RSA) inhibitor, such as an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB), to control their hypertension (high blood pressure), should avoid taking ibuprofen, according to new research published in the journal Mathematical Biosciences. 

Diuretics and RSA inhibitors are available by prescription under a variety of pharmaceutical brand names while painkillers such as ibuprofen are mostly available over-the-counter under different name brands such as Advil or Motrin.  

Researchers at the University of Waterloo looked at the interactions of diuretics, RSA, and ibuprofen using computer-simulated drug trials. The investigators found that in some patients with certain medical profiles, the combination of the three medications could cause kidney damage, which in some cases can be permanent, according to a news release.

“Diuretics are a family of drugs that make the body hold less water,” Anita Layton, professor of applied mathematics at Waterloo and Canada 150 Research Chair in mathematical biology and medicine said in the release.

Layton further explained in the report, “Being dehydrated is a major factor in acute kidney injury, and then the RAS inhibitor and ibuprofen hit the kidney with this triple whammy. If you happen to be on these hypertension drugs and need a painkiller, consider acetaminophen instead.” 

The release explained that computer-simulated drug trials could provide researchers with results faster than in human clinical trials. Layton and her research team used mathematics and computer science to provide medical practitioners “a head start with issues like drug complications,” the release said.  

Layton did note in the release, “It’s not that everyone who happens to take this combination of drugs is going to have problems,” and added, “But the research shows it’s enough of a problem that you should exercise caution.” 

The study stated that the triple medication therapy, known as “triple whammy,” was associated with a 31% increased risk for acute kidney injury, compared to patients treated with diuretic and ACE inhibitor/ARB only. The published report also stated that triple whammy acute kidney injury (AKI) occurs in 0.88%–22% of triple treatment patients. 

“Our simulation results reveal a key role of the myogenic response in determining the risk of AKI,” the study authors stated in the published report. Myogenic response is the mechanism by which the blood vessel diameter constricts after an increase in pressure and increases in diameter after a decrease in this pressure to maintain appropriate blood flow, experts explain.

“We hypothesize that individuals with an impaired myogenic response may be particularly susceptible to triple whammy AKI. Additionally, increased drug sensitivity or low water intake can predispose patients to triple whammy AKI,” the investigators wrote in their study.  

Health experts told Fox News, it is important for anyone taking medication to check with their physician or pharmacist before taking an over the counter medication or supplement to avoid any drug interactions.  

COVID-19 subvariant XE: What to know

It’s nicknamed Frankenstein, but experts say that shouldn’t scare you.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a preliminary report on the new COVID-19 “Frankenstein” subvariant called XE, which is a mix of the omicron BA.1 variant and the “stealth” variant BA.2, with the agency declaring it’s still part of the omicron variant, but not a variant of interest or concern yet, according to a recent Euronews report. 

The XE strain was first detected in the United Kingdom on January 19, with now over 1,000 cases spreading by community transmission, with the majority in the east of England, London, and South East London, per the report.

A “recombinant” strain is a type of variant that occurs when an individual becomes infected with two or more variants at the same time, and are assigned the letter “X” prefix to classify them as recombinant, said Dr. Stacia Wyman, senior genomics scientist at the Innovative Genomics Institute at UC Berkeley.

Wyman noted the XE subvariant originated from someone who was infected with both the BA.1 and BA.2 variants. 

“When the virus was replicating, there was an error and the two viruses combined,” she said. “Then the combined virus replicates and is spread to other people.”

XE’s genomic sequence is part BA.1 and part BA.2, but the gene that codes for the spike protein that helps the virus attach to healthy cells comes from BA.2. But even though it’s part BA.2, it’s still unknown if previous BA.2 infection will provide immunity to XE, Wyman said. 

“Early-day estimates indicate a community growth rate advantage of ~10% [for XE] as compared to BA.2, however this finding requires further confirmation,” the WHO said.

But the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) noted: “There is currently insufficient evidence to draw conclusions about growth advantage or other properties of this variant,” according to a March 25 updated release. 

People are testing positive for 10 days or more when they are diagnosed with the XE variant, said Denis Kinane, immunologist and founding scientist of United Kingdom-based Cignpost Diagnostics.

“Our current data is showing that many people are testing positive for 10 days or more rather than the 6 or 7 days we saw by frequent testing at the beginning of the omicron wave, which means the virus has more opportunity to spread more widely and this may be BA-2 and XE’s transmissibility advantage,” Kinane said.

At least two XE cases have been sequenced in Wisconsin and one in New York with also two unconfirmed cases in California, according to Wyman. Japan, China, Thailand, India, New Zealand, and Israel have reported COVID-19 cases secondary to the XE subvariant, in addition to the U.K.

“We continue to monitor cases of the recombinant XE variant in the U.K., which currently represents a very small proportion of cases,” said Meera Chand, director of clinical and emerging infections at UKHSA.

“Recombinant variants are not unusual, particularly when there are multiple variants in circulation – and several have already been identified over the course of the pandemic,” said Dr. George Thompson, professor of medicine at the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

Thompson told Fox News: “It may be slightly more transmissible than the parent variant but it is too early to known if outcomes differ from other COVID variants.”

“As with other kinds of variant[s], most will die off relatively quickly,” said Susan Hopkins, chief medical advisor of UKHSA.

Because viruses naturally mutate over time, recombinant strains are not surprising, so presently XE does not appear to be more effective at evading immunity from previous vaccination or prior COVID-19 infection compared with the previous strains, said Dr. Carlos Malvestutto, an infectious disease specialist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

But Hopkins noted, “So far there is not enough evidence to draw conclusions about transmissibility, severity or vaccine effectiveness.”

Some experts argue, however, because XE is a combined strain of both BA.1 and BA.2 and vaccination protects against symptomatic disease for BA.1 and BA.2 strains, it is likely vaccination will also protect against symptomatic disease caused by XE, said Dr. Andrew Badley, professor of infectious disease at the Mayo Clinic and chair of the COVID-19 Task Force for Mayo Clinic.

The most common symptoms reported of the XE strain are similar to the cold-like symptoms of original strain of omicron – especially in vaccinated people, like runny noses, sore throats and sneezing in contrast to the original strain of the virus that causes COVID-19, like fevers, cough or loss of taste or smell, according to the Independent. 

Badley added: “We also know that the other therapies that are being used particularly in the outpatient setting—Paxlovid and molnupiravir—should, based on how they work, have continued activity against the XE strain.”

But Badley noted because some monoclonal antibody therapies are not effective against BA.1 and BA.2, it is likely those specific antibody treatments won’t work against XE either.

“The key takeaway is that for each of these variants and subvariants, risk of hospitalization and death appears to be, on average, lower where vaccination rates are higher, indicating that vaccination, including a third dose, should be effective in reducing risk for severe disease,” said Stephanie Silvera, professor of public health at Montclair State University.

On Sunday, April 10, Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and said that the coronavirus “is not going to be eradicated and it’s not going to be eliminated. And what’s going to happen is that we’re going to see that each individual is going to have to make their calculation of the amount of risk that they want to take.” ((Screenshot YT: ABC News))

Approximately 62% of all COVID-19 cases in the United States are currently BA.2, but a new BA.2 subvariant, BA.2.12.1, is now responsible for 36.5% of new coronavirus infections, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

“We’re just starting to learn about the impact of BA.2.12.1,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. 

“It appears it might have a transmission advantage of about 25% over the BA.2 subvariant. … But importantly, we continue to believe that those who are vaccinated and especially those who are boosted, continue to have strong protection against severe disease, even from BA.2.12.1.”

Wyman added the XE recombinant strain “may die out completely regionally and never spread.” 

“It’s something to keep an eye on, but not for the general population to worry about.”